Rick Fraser, whose grandfather is the legendary Tom Dorchester, runs of his final races at the Ponoka Stampede June 28. He announced earlier this year that he will be retiring from racing following the Calgary Stampede. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Two-time world champion Rick Fraser marks final Ponoka Stampede

Veteran chuckwagon driver of 25 years set to retire after the season ends

A driving career spanning 25 years to go along with another six as an outrider will come to an end later this month.

Grande Prairie native and two-time champion of the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA), 58 year-old Rick Fraser will be unhitching his wagon for the last time following the Calgary Stampede.

He’s the second long-time veteran of the circuit to come out at the beginning of the season with a retirement announcement. Kelly Sutherland did the same thing last year.

“I started with the WPCA outriding for my dad,” Fraser said. “Then I got in as a driver and now it’s my turn to retire.”

While one might think a world title, 10 times winning the WPCA final heat or even being a champion outrider would stand out in one’s mind, but for Fraser, it’s actually a lot less dramatic than that.

“There are a couple of memories that really stand out,” he explained.

“The first time I drove out onto the track at the Calgary Stampede and the great Joe Carbury called my name. That was really special and there may never be another announcer like him. Then, when I won the world championship was really good and satisfying.

“But, probably one of the most special things I did was help my buddy after he broke his leg halfway through the season. I took over and drove his outfit and made the cut for the Calgary Stampede. That was really special.”

Helping someone else out is just what the family of the WPCA does on a regular basis, and it’s that family atmosphere that have kept people like Fraser in the sport for so long. Especially so, when you grow up in it, as Fraser is a third-generation driver.

Fraser’s stepfather, whose footsteps he followed in, was the legendary Dave Lewis and the bloodlines go deeper as Fraser’s grandfather is the great Tom Dorchester, whose name appears in a place of honour at the Ponoka Stampede — both on the grandstand and having his name attached to the championship $50,000 chuckwagon race. That line of great chuckwagon racers will continue as Rick’s son Cody started driving his own rig in 2016.

While Rick and his wife Sue will also have time to enjoy life with their other two children — Amy and Kaylee — plus with a pair of grandchildren, Fraser noted he really has no idea what he will do once the season wraps up. In fact, he hasn’t even given retirement a thought this past week.

“You have to love it and love the horses. We love it and we like all the people. We are all just gypsies, rolling down the road. It’s just what we do and we don’t know anything else,” he added.

“I’ve just been thinking about the next race coming up. When you get up, you start thinking about the horses and do a lot of work to get them ready. But it’s not just those four horses, but you have a whole barn to look after.

“And yes, you have time to visit with friends, and really that joking around and visiting is what everyone is going to miss. However, for me it’s getting to walk in and see the horses. That’s what will be a little bit different.”

 

Twenty-five year veteran chuckwagon driver Rick Fraser made his last Ponoka Stampede appearance and feels its the horses and the people that he will miss the most. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

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